England’s large post-92s take hit on ‘student outcomes’ funding cut

Teaching grant allocations by OfS reveal losers from £30 million drop in funding to aid retention

May 11, 2018
Tuition, fees, education funding
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A number of newer English universities are among those losing the most direct teaching funding next year following a £30 million cut to funding designed to stop disadvantaged students dropping out of higher education.

At some large post-92 institutions, including London Metropolitan, Leeds Beckett and Manchester Metropolitan universities, overall grant funding will drop by more than £1 million, a large part of which is down to the cut.

The Office for Students announced last month that the “premium to support successful student outcomes” – which is targeted at those judged to be more at risk of leaving higher education based on factors such as their qualifications and age – would fall to £165 million in 2018-19 for full-time undergraduates.

It was a decision that stemmed from the government’s last spending review in 2015, when cash to support disadvantaged students was earmarked for cuts of up to half from 2015-16 to 2019-20.

An indication of the universities that will be most affected by the cut in 2018-19 comes from the OfS’ announcement on teaching funding for individual universities – the first since the body officially took over the role of distributing teaching grants from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Although direct teaching grants have dwindled in importance to universities since the 2012 rise in tuition fees, they will still provide about £1.3 billion in income for institutions in England next year.

The OfS said that this included £681 million in funding to support high-cost subjects, a cash increase of 4 per cent to maintain the budget in real terms. Spending on a national outreach programme and premiums to support disabled students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds studying part-time have also been maintained in cash terms.

However, the drop in funding to help prevent disadvantaged full-time undergraduates from dropping out has led to some institutions seeing their teaching grant fall by 10 per cent or more.

Others have also been hit by the cut, but the overall effect may have been mitigated by the boost in funding for high-cost subjects or by the continuing channelling of government money for nursing and other allied health subjects through the OfS rather than NHS bursaries.

Elsewhere, the figures for teaching grants show that the Open University will lose more than £9 million in direct funding next year as support for part-time students who started courses before the 2012 fees change comes to an end. Although the cut would not have been unexpected for the OU, it again shows the kinds of challenges that the institution has had to face in adjusting to the post-2012 funding regime.

Nicola Dandridge, the OfS chief executive, said that the body’s focus for the funding allocations this year was to prepare “a smooth transition” before new regulatory arrangements fully come into force next year as a result of the recent Higher Education and Research Act.

“During this time, we will be reviewing our approach to funding for the longer term to ensure that it secures the best outcomes for students,” she said.

Hefce was also responsible for allocating annual quality-related research grants for universities, but these, and the 2018-19 distribution of funding for knowledge exchange, will be announced separately by UK Research and Innovation.


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